Excerpted minutes from an exchange on the importance of animal welfare as compared with minority rights.
Evan: “If you want to know where you would have stood on gay rights 40 years ago, or civil rights 70 years ago, ask yourself where you stand on animal rights today.” -facebook comment. This is literally true by the way. I see the world this way, and I see those who oppose animal liberation this way in *every* *single* social situation. There is no chance that I don’t judge you for failing to recognize the animal industry for what it is and acting accordingly. Not sure how much more strongly and completely I can force this statement. If you eat meat, you are doing something that is obviously grievously wrong. It’s no better than any other case of that; it’s a paradigm case of it. You can change, and in doing so help change the world. You can literally choose to be a racist 70 years ago or not; you can choose to be opposed to gay rights 40 years ago or not.
Cain: There are vastly more non-human animals than the 8 billion humans estimated to exist now.
Supporting large subsets of humans’ civil rights, other rights etc. is thus supporting interests of vastly fewer total lives than all non-human animals. All civil rights and social reformers cared for far fewer beings, all things considered, than all animal altruists care for non-human animals. So, it seems you’re committed to the false idea that a vegan abstaining from all meat is doing more good or as much good by supporting interests of a larger group than civil rights and social reformers did by supporting interests of very small human minorities. Looks like a case of scope insensitivity, but I’m open to correction.
Evan: I do believe it’s even more important that civil rights partly because of the numbers, yes, but so how is that scope insensitivity? Wouldn’t scope insensitivity be not caring about the larger scope of animal rights?
Cain: It would still count as scope insensitivity if one disagrees that any number of animals can be a more deserving beneficiary of charitable care than any number of humans. For the dissenter is entitled to maintain (1 human life > 100 bird lives) and supporting (100 bird lives) over 1 human life would ignore scope on such an assessment. Otherwise, agreed. Would you trade universal human civil rights, and gay rights, for universal animal welfare?
Evan: Oh right, I agree that ‘It would still count as scope insensitivity if one disagrees that any number of animals can be a more deserving beneficiary of charitable care than any number of humans’.
Would I trade civil rights, and gay rights, for universal animal welfare? We’re all sentient creatures with goals and experiences, so it would just depend on the amount of human rights being traded against the amount of animal rights. Although human rights could potentially be more important because they might influence the adoption of enlightenment ideas which are probably crucial for building friendly AGI.
Cain: I’m sure you’ll agree that is a radical position even in EA circles. You should cut dissenters some slack.
Evan: Civil rights were once radical. And, no I don’t think that’s radical in Effective Altruist circles.
Cain: Fair enough.
Evan: But yeah I don’t care how unpopular the opinion is; it’s obviously true, and so if 99% of people disagree with it then 99% of people just suck really bad; just as much as people who opposed civil rights a century ago sucked.
Cain: I respect that consistency!